No-one could have predicted the victory of sumo wrestler Tokushoryu – the lowest ranked competitor at the New Year Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo.
But win he did and burst into tears after beating his opponent in a rare public display of emotion.
He ended the 15-day contest on Sunday with 14 wins and one defeat.
His victory means Tokushoryu is the first bottom-ranked sumo wrestler to win a top-division title since March 2000.
The wrestler – who weighs 188kg (414lb) and is 1.81m (5ft93) tall – beat his opponent Takakeisho, a champion wrestler, out of the dohyo ring at Tokyo’s Ryogoku Kokugikan stadium.
After his victory, some spectators described how he was crying one minute, laughing the next.
In a post-win interview, the 33-year-old said: “I might have cried too much, but at that moment I felt relieved from all the pressure,” Kyodo news agency quotes him as saying.
“Deep down I’m feeling like: ‘Is it ok for me to win the championship?’ I was the lowest-ranking fighter, so I had nothing to fear. I just had to give it everything I had.”
After seizing the tournament’s lead on Saturday, he said he had recited the sumo mantra to himself: “I’m not focused on the championship.”
He also said the death of his coach – which he learnt of halfway through the tournament – was another thing that spurred him on to victory.
He then decided he should win the tournament “for him”, he said.
He had previously spent 12 of sumo’s previous 13 grand tournaments in the second-tier juryo division, Kyodo reports.
“Since the start [of the tournament], I’d been thinking if I give it all I have, that will be plenty,” he said.
“If I do my best on the opening charge, I can live with the results that follow. I’d done it my way all along, and the final day was the same.”
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